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Can you imagine what it would be like getting trapped in a house with a vengeful spirit? Now imagine there's another 12 and you're in for possibly the last and most horrific night of your life! Back in October 2001, Thirteen Ghosts hit cinemas across the globe and caused all manner of nightmares for young audiences. A worthy remake of the 1960 William Castle production 13 Ghosts, which starred the spooky Vincent Price as proprietor of a haunted house. Check out the trailer below for a taste of the 2001 movie:
Too Many Spooks
For those of you too young to have seen this back in the day, the plot is a simple (but cool) one:
A family inherits a house from their late uncle, but upon entering the place they soon find themselves trapped inside with a small army of ghosts ready to tear them limb from limb. Can they work out the secrets of the house? Or are they doomed to become the fabled 13th ghost themselves?
One thing that makes this movie different from the rest, is the fact that the ghosts can only be seen if you're wearing a special pair of glasses. This is a play on the original #13 Ghosts which, in great horror tradition, was shown in 3D to add an extra dimension of terror! I absolutely love this plot point and can't believe it hasn't been used more often in cinema. Here's hoping we get an actual 3D transfer of this movie one day.
What am I thinking, you're probably saying you're not afraid of ghosts anyway right? Well, if you're brave, let me introduce you to 13 of my friends and see what you think.
1. The First Born Son
When he was alive, Billy was a boy obsessed with cowboys and Indians and would happily play into this fantasy all day long. Unfortunately, any attempt to bring him back to reality would result in a child's rage, which his parents could not control. When a neighbor child challenged Billy to a duel, his toy gun was no match for the steel-tipped arrow that took his life. His spirit will not let you past without a duel to the death — yours that is.
2. The Torso
Jimmy, a small-time bookie got a reputation for taking any and all bets given to him. Unfortunately, he took one too many and when he couldn't pay back his debts, he was made an example of. His body was chopped into several pieces and dumped unceremoniously in the ocean. Jimmy is still around today; in fact, he's in several places.
3. The Bound Woman
Susan Legrow was a popular girl who used men and simply discarded them afterwards. On the night of her high school prom, her boyfriend Chet found her in the arms of another man. He killed them both, savagely strangling Susan in the process. He later said in court, "the bitch broke my heart." She continues to break them in the afterlife.
4. The Withered Lover
Jean, the only "good" ghost you're likely to find in this house of horrors, was killed in a house fire. However, her spirit was trapped as part of a sadistic scheme to power the house, which is actually a device designed by the devil to release Hell on Earth. Just so you know.
5. The Torn Prince
Royce was on the fast track to becoming a big league baseball player until he was challenged to a drag race by a local greaser. Not wanting to lose face, Royce agreed but lost control of his car and was killed in the flaming wreckage. He's still quite handy with a baseball bat even now, just beware lest your head becomes the ball.
6. The Angry Princess
Dana Newman was a beautiful girl in life. Unfortunately, she was never able to see this for herself. She had one unnecessary cosmetic surgery after the next in an attempt to fix another invisible blemish. One night she attempted surgery on her face, resulting in her losing sight in one eye. This was the final blow to her psyche. Shortly after, she slit her wrists in the bathtub and she became one of the angriest spirits this side of the grave.
7. The Pilgrimess
Poor Isabella was accused of being a witch back in the 16th century after livestock mysteriously began to die. First, they burned down her house with her still inside. When Isabella managed to escape without a single scorch mark, her fate was sealed. Bound in stocks in the town square, villagers spat at her and stoned her for weeks until she died of starvation. She's not a very sympathetic spirit and has been known to lash out at her captors to this day.
8 The Great Child
Harold Shelburne was treated like a baby throughout his entire life by his crazy mother. After being taunted and laughed at for years, his family had little choice but to run away and join a traveling freak show. Tormented by their fellow freaks, they hid Harold's mother from him. In an act of revenge, he savagely killed everyone and displayed their carcasses for all paying customers to see. The circus owner had Harold mutilated beyond recognition. That doesn't stop him from being a big baby with a furious temper today.
9. The Dire Mother
Margaret Shelburne was a shy woman who was mocked and even dressed up in child's clothing by her own mother. She worked at a circus freak show and one night was raped by the tall man, the offspring would become known as The Great Child. She doted on her son Harold and wouldn't let him do anything, leaving him incapable of looking after himself. This would lead to a revolt at the circus, resulting in her death. She was reunited with Harold in the afterlife and they make a fearsome team against anyone who dares to look upon them.
10. The Hammer
In life he was an honest blacksmith called Markly who was wrongly accused of stealing by a local dealer called Nathan. Markly wouldn't be run out of his home town so easily. Shortly afterwards, Nathan brutally murdered Markly's wife and two children while they were coming home from market. Markly then used his hammer to murder Nathan in a savage act of revenge. Unfortunately the townsfolk caught Markly and made an example of him. They nailed him to a tree with his own hammer, driving them deep into his body. Lastly, they cut off his hand and crudely attached the tool of his trade, thus creating the tormented creature that is still around today.
11. The Jackal
Ryan was cursed with an insatiable appetite for attacking and terrorizing women with the savagery of an animal. He was committed to Borehamwood Asylum and kept in a padded cell, causing him to go completely insane. He would chew through his restraints and in the end they had to encase his head in a steel cage to stop him. When a fire started in the basement, Ryan stayed behind in his cell and met his maker. Unfortunately, that hasn't calmed him any and now he's free to do more damage in death.
12. The Juggernaut
Horace was born horribly disfigured and as a result was abandoned by his mother at an early age. His father put his oversized son to work in the family junkyard and he was left on his own for most of his teenage years. When his father died he snapped and started picking up hitchhikers and murdering them. He was finally discovered by the police and in trying to arrest Horace, they ended up putting 50 rounds of ammunition into his body just to stop him. Since then, he still takes the odd passerby who dares to enter his junkyard, now he's loose in a house full of people — what fun!
13. The Broken Heart
The titled 13th ghost is a fail safe, created out of self sacrifice — the only ghost that can stop the house from bringing Hell on Earth. That's all I'm saying, honest.
Better Call The Ghostbusters!
Thirteen Ghosts is a popcorn horror movie that stars such acting heavyweights as Embeth Davidtz, Matthew Lillard, Shannon Elizabeth and Tony Shalhoub. The stand out for me has to be Matthew Lillard, who plays Dennis Rafkin, a medium who was involved in the capture of all these tormented souls. He feels responsible for the events that are unfolding and helps the family try to make it through the nightmare. Oh, and he hams it up to great effect too.
While #Thirteen Ghosts has some amazing spooks and great set pieces, it does fall a little with a script that has more holes in it than swiss cheese. However, the film moves at a swift pace from one encounter to the next, and with a run time under 90 minutes you could do a lot worse than watch it. Frankly, it makes great Halloween movie fodder and it's only a shame that no one capitalized on the ghost characters to bring about a sequel or even a set of prequels. Go stream it today and see the ghosts for yourself.